This week, eBay experienced this lesson first-hand when news broke that the online auction site had been hacked, putting the personal details of up to 15 million users at risk.

With the “heartbleed” virus having made headlines recently, public tolerance towards breaches in online security is dropping fast. However, the crux of the eBay story lies not in the fact that it suffered a security breach, but that it had known about a potential vulnerability since late February.

Moreover, with many eBay customers hearing the news via social and mainstream media – and not from the business itself – the way in which eBay handled the incident and its communication with its users has drawn heavy criticism.

Maintaining the trust of its client base, particularly during the management of a crisis, is critical to a business. This is not just for its credibility, but where financial transactions and personal details are concerned, security and trust are paramount.

How this data infringement occurred is yet to be discovered, but what is clear is that with the rise of social media, communications must be dealt with promptly and delivered by a trusted source. Since eBay’s business is built upon the loyalty of millions of buyers and sellers, this incident could impact more than just its reputation and it will have to work hard to win back the loyalty and trust of its users.

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